OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder are hoping isolation isn’t such a bad thing if it’s done right.
The Thunder employ three elite isolation players, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. And though all three like to take opponents one-on-one often, coach Billy Donovan isn’t necessarily trying to stifle their habits.
It’s the opposite. He’s trying to use them for good.
“There’s a balance from the standpoint of, OK, you want to be able to allow those guys to do some of those things because they’re really good at it. But are they doing it against two people? Is there two people on them? Are they shooting out of crowds?” Donovan said. “They, I think, understand that the importance is going to be how well can we move the basketball.”
Of all NBA players, Westbrook finished the second-most possessions per game in isolation a season ago, per Synergy Sports Technology. Anthony finished the third most per game in iso. George, who is not nearly as prone to isolating but who was on a team where he was easily the first option, finished 12th.
Donovan is excited to use their skill sets at the end of the clock. When one of them has a mismatch, he wants whoever it is to exploit the situation. What he doesn’t want, though, is stagnancy.
“The problem comes in when you throw it to those guys and now everybody just stands and now there’s no movement and they’re taking difficult shots,” he said. “So, there’s definitely got to be a balance. I’m all about ‘shot contestedness,’ because we’re trying to contest shots on defense.”
• Feeling Perky: Former Thunder center and fan favorite Kendrick Perkins is back in basketball, agreeing to a deal with the Canton Charge, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ G-League affiliate, ESPN reports.
The Cavs recently waived Perkins, who did not play in 2016-17, after inviting him to training camp on a non-guaranteed contract.
"I'm serious and I'm committed to this [opportunity],” Perkins said to ESPN, via text message. “I will sacrifice to show the NBA.”
Perkins played for the Thunder from 2011 to 2015, starting at center for three-and-a-half years before current starting center Steven Adams replaced him. He averaged 4.2 points and 5.9 rebounds in 23.1 minutes while in OKC and last played for the New Orleans Pelicans in 2015-16. He spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Boston Celtics until the Thunder acquired him and point guard Nate Robinson in a deal that sent forward Jeff Green, center Nenad Krstic and a first-round pick to Boston.
• Injury update: Thunder point guard Raymond Felton and power forward Patrick Patterson both went through non-contact practice Monday.
Felton is recovering from a sprained left wrist, which he suffered during the Thunder’s second-to-last preseason game, an 86-85 victory over Melbourne United of Australia’s NBL. He did not play in OKC’s preseason finale at the Denver Nuggets.
Patterson is still recovering from the arthroscopic surgery he underwent on his left knee at the beginning of August. He is yet to go through contact practice since returning, but has been able to run, jump and shoot.
The next time Patterson plays in a game will be his first one with the Thunder. He missed all four of the team’s preseason games. But Donovan isn’t worried about his backup power forward and probable sixth man’s cohesiveness with those around him.
“He’s a veteran guy that can pick things up through watching and through film, and he’s been able to go through non-contact things,” Donovan said. “He’s worked out before practice, after practice. So, he’s up to speed with everything. He knows what’s going on.”
The Thunder did not go through any contact portions of practice Monday, Donovan said, which meant both Felton and Patterson were able to participate in the practice in full. The team has not released a timetable for either player. After the Thunder waived point guards Isaiah Canaan and Semaj Christon over the weekend, Felton and Westbrook are the only two point guards remaining on the roster.
The Thunder open the regular season Oct. 19 against the New York Knicks.
• Roster ready: Thunder wing Kyle Singler was listed as OKC's only inactive on the NBA's latest roster release. The league sent out an email detailing every team's roster Monday evening.
Teams can have 13 players active for every game but can hold up to 15 on the roster. The Thunder have 14 total. Active and inactive players can adjust from day to day.
Fred Katz is the Thunder beat writer for the Norman Transcript and CNHI Oklahoma as well as a host of the OKC Dream Team, a weekly Thunder podcast that runs every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz.